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Stockton Waterfront Development

Stockton town centre is modern, successful and vibrant with impressive public spaces on a high street with a rich heritage. Its riverside should be a focal point with accessible, flexible space for the Borough’s world-class events programme all year round. Building on the asset of the River Tees, Stockton Waterfront will provide a high quality setting for a modern town centre with a distinct sense of place that also safeguards sustainable traditional retail.

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The challenge

Until a few years ago, town centres were built almost exclusively around retail with traditional shopping habits which have dominated the nation’s high streets for 200 years. 

Increasing use of online shopping and growth of out of town retail parks has meant that the retail-dominated function of the High Street has changed and town centres need to evolve and react to changing consumer habits if they want to remain vibrant and popular places for people to visit.

Stockton had seen vacancy rates rise to almost three times the national average through a combination of the impact of changing consumer habits and old, poorly laid out retail units, with many in a poor state of repair or too big for modern retail needs.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated the challenges that town centres across the country face to make high streets fit for purpose.

The solution

Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council has recognised this trend across its six town centres for some time. Its six town centres have been at the heart of Council investment in recent years, underlining their importance to economic growth and community cohesion. 

The Council is building on this investment and continuing to drive change forward in the six towns across the Borough, to adapt to the changing face of retail and town centres in the coming years.

In the case of Stockton, the Council is providing a vibrant, modern town centre for the future by creating quality of place through inclusive and accessible new spaces for all and one which capitalises on the closeness to the River Tees.

The radical transformation of Stockton town centre will provide a sustainable retail offer, safeguarding the traditional function of the high street and one that attracts new businesses, drives new use and footfall.

Reconnecting the High Street to the river will create a unique attraction in the heart of the town centre and these changes will form an exciting future for Stockton that allows it to stand out from other town centres.

This underpins the rationale for demolishing Castlegate Shopping Centre and the Swallow Hotel, which is currently underway and is expected to be complete by summer 2023.

They will be replaced by Stockton Waterfront, a riverside park with direct access to the river from the High Street.

Three times the size of Trafalgar Square, Stockton Waterfront will provide an urban park in the heart of Stockton. It will incorporate high quality design, flexible spaces that are accessible to all and will be capable of hosting large-scale events for thousands of people.

One of the highlights of Stockton Waterfront will be the narrowing and tunnelling of Riverside Road, allowing the High Street to physically and visually reconnect with the riverside in a seamless manner, as people are able to walk uninterrupted from High Street to riverside.

The Council has created a more compact, sustainable retail core to ensure the long-term viability of retail by concentrating Stockton’s main retail offering in Wellington Square and the north section of the High Street.

The relocation of businesses from Castlegate Centre into Wellington Square is almost complete, with the majority of moves agreed.

In 2016, Stockton had seen a vacancy rate of over 20 per cent. There is now a promising trend of a projected decrease in vacancy rate for the end of 2022 of 10.2 per cent.

Key public services will also be relocated to the southern end of the High Street as part of Stockton Waterfront.

This includes the development of a new leisure centre, library, customer service and register building.

The new leisure centre would replace the existing Splash leisure centre in the town centre, providing a more modern facility with a pool, gym and studios.

Discussions for a new NHS facility to be also built on this site to meet the needs of North Tees and Hartlepool hospitals NHS Trust to move non-clinical, administration and some diagnostic services to a town centre location are also underway.

The Council also purchased Dunedin House, on Teesdale Business Park, for our future Municipal office accommodation. This development will give an exciting combination of health, wellbeing and active leisure in Stockton town centre.

The site will be complete in 2025.

The impact

The transformation brought about by Stockton Waterfront will be a stimulus for greater activity and investment on the riverside and fundamentally change perceptions of Stockton as place to visit and invest.

Stockton Waterfront is the next step in expanding on our commitment for delivering quality spaces and places for our residents, businesses and visitors, but it also builds upon our previous interventions to make the town a great place to live, work and thrive.

These transformational changes are the next step in the journey we’ve undertaken that make Stockton a unique place to visit and differentiate it from any other town.

They allow us to provide a modern town centre that safeguards the day-to-day retail function but allows residents and visitors to experience a variety of other things on offer, all set in a riverside environment.

How is the new approach being sustained?

Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council launched the Let’s Talk About Our Towns public consultation to allow stakeholders and the general public to identify key priorities to approach the shared vision for the development of Stockton to make it a great place to live, visit and do business.

This feedback and evaluation has been used to inform the Council’s Town Centres Investment Team on key decisions on how to reshape the town and make it fit for the future.

Communication and engagement campaigns, using new case studies are set to be regularly published in the press, social media and the council website to keep interest in the site from businesses and residents. The most recent engagement campaign took place in August to allow residents, businesses and visitors to provide input on the concept plan for the urban park, before a final design is created in Autumn 2022.

There has been coordination and communication with business groups and all stakeholders across this journey and we are committed to fully engaging with these parties as we progress through the development of these exciting plans.

Full information on how the Council is transforming its six towns can also be found on the new dedicated website at